Saying goodbye to one of Bath’s ‘green’ landmarks.

Saying goodbye to one of Bath’s ‘green’ landmarks.

If anyone asks you where the Snow Hill development is you can just point to that familiar patch of green roofs on the Bath skyline.

This postwar development of eight low rise blocks – with a single tower block at its centre – took place between 1952 and 1968 when the local authority decided to clear an area of Georgian and Victorian terraces deemed unfit for habitation.

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Berkley Tower is still the highest domestic building in Bath.

Scandinavian architecture was popular at the time. Sweden was viewed as a model of what a welfare state could achieve. It’s use of pre-fabrication, sensitive detail and,even when not particularly distinguished, the placement of the buildings within schemes together with considered landscaping all provided inspiration.

The new blocks at Snow Hill were designed to echo the 18th-century terraces that had been bulldozed away.With the  Berkley House tower – still the tallest domestic building in the city – adding an eleven-storey block at its centre. It was a clearance that would never have happened if it had been proposed today.

Like it or loath it – it was the development’s roofs that proved – in the long run – to be its most outstanding feature. The low pitch design wasn’t suitable for tiles and, with a shortage of post-war materials, they were looking for a low-weight, sheet material that would give long-lasting weather protection.

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Will the removal of the green roofs help the development to blend in?

They chose copper. The architects Snailum, Huggins and Lefevre, already had experience of using the material on other projects – like at King Edwards School on the opposite side of the valley.

At today’s prices, it would not have been cost-effective but it was then. A durable material that – of course – has ‘aged’ (oxidised) to its familiar green patina colour.

The buildings beneath them have provided continuous social housing for over 60 years and have been a city landmark with the rows of green roofs. The development passed from Council ownership in 1999 to the newly formed Somer Community Housing Trust Association – renamed Curo in 2012.

Seems the copper cladding has reached the end of its life – it’s not so much the covering as its support which has led to the failure of the roofs.

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You can just see – above the chimney pots – that one roof has already been changed from green to grey.

Curo has started a programme to replace them with a different material. They’ve consulted Bath Preservation Trust and Snow Hill residents and agreed upon a grey zinc which they say ‘ is affordable and in keeping with the surrounding architecture. The new roofing will have a 60-100 year lifespan. While the scaffolding is up, we’re also redecorating the outside of each block.’

A planning application is now in for B&NES to give permission for contractors to replace the copper roofs of Dover and Walcot houses which – ironically –  won a RIBA Bronze Medal in 1957 for design as the first two blocks to be erected.

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The Snow Hill development as seen from the Kennet and Avon canal towpath.

Curo produced a report on the history of the Snow Hill development in 2016 as they set out their case for the new roofs. It was called a ‘Statement of Historical Significance’ and contained the following quote:

‘The move to a grey colour will sit the roofs more congruently into their surrounds and blend the scheme more respectfully into its hillside setting.’

and further on:

‘The cultural significance will be affected as the ‘green roofs’ have served as a landmark in Bath for over 60 years and will be lost for the lifetime of the proposed new coverings. However, the scheme will remain a clear 20th Century modernist design that reflects the social change of that era.

Its use will not change and therefore the cultural significance, and importantly what the buildings stand for, will not be adversely impacted as a result of the proposal.’

Bath Newseum would love to hear your Snow Hill stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carve their names with pride.

Carve their names with pride.

Stonemasonry students from Bath College have volunteered their time for a project honouring local men who served in World War I.

The Level 3 students have carved commemorative paving stones for Mulberry Park, a new development of 700 homes, community facilities and open spaces in southern Bath being built by housing association Curo.

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Some of the stone masonry students involved.

 A local group – the Combe Down Heritage Society – suggested that the streets within the new development were named after the young men of Combe Down who served in World War I. Each street will be marked with a commemorative paving stone.

The first paving stones to be unveiled honour Henry John ‘Harry’ Patch, William George Chivers and Herbert Charles Windell. Harry Patch, “the Last Fighting Tommy”, was the last surviving combat soldier of the First World War from any country. All three men grew up in Combe Down village.

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Jonathan Cope​ – a relative of William George Chivers.

Relatives of William George Chivers attended to lay the stone which honours him. Jonathan Cope, who grew up in Combe Down said: “We’re really touched that our relative is being honoured in this way. Our family has a strong connection with Combe Down – my mother even worked on the former MOD Foxhill site. It is really important that future generations remember the sacrifices of those who fought in the world wars.”

Liz Potter, Chair of housing association and house builder Curo, said: “It’s a real privilege to work with the local community to honour these men.
As Mulberry Park develops, we will continue to celebrate the history of the local area while looking forward to an exciting future for new and existing residents.”

Curo has worked with Combe Down Heritage Society and stone carving students from Bath College to create the commemorative paving stones that will mark each street.

The paving stones were kindly donated by Forest of Dean Stone Firms. Stone carving student Jonny Stoker said: “It’s my way of paying respect to those who fought in the First World War, especially coming up to Armistice Day. I’m looking forward to visiting the site and seeing all the stones laid together in situ. I think that will give me a massive sense of achievement. Volunteering for projects like this gives me the chance to test what I’ve learned at college.”

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The ceremony to unveil the first paving stones was attended by college students, representatives of Combe Down Heritage Society, the Royal British Legion, Bath and North East Somerset Council and MP Wera Hobhouse.

Narrow vote in favour of Foxhill redevelopment.

Narrow vote in favour of Foxhill redevelopment.

Controversial plans for the redevelopment of the Foxhill Estate – including the re-provision of up to 700 homes – have today been approved by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Development Management Committee.

playground in demolition area

The Committee voted in favour of the outline planning application by the developer Curo Places Ltd, by a narrow vote of 5 to 4.

One of the green areas where children play

Cllr Sally Davis (Conservative, Farmborough) Chair of the Development Management Committee, said: “We have carefully considered all of the information in the officer report, and having conducted a site visit and listened closely to the representations at today’s meeting, the Committee voted to approve the Curo Places redevelopment of the Foxhill Estate, subject to the conditions and legal agreement stated in the officer report.”

Houses Foxhill Road

As this is an outline planning application, subsequent reserved matters will need to be prepared and submitted which will deal with the detailed design of each phase of development as it comes forward.

Dunster house flats

Further details on the outline planning application and the conditions for approval can be found at:https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/documents/s47383/Applications%20for%20Planning%20Permission%20-%2026%20July%202017.pdf

What future for Foxhill? A personal view.

What future for Foxhill? A personal view.

The regeneration of the Foxhill area by the Curo Housing Association is a major development that will bring big changes to this part of Bath. It will both add to the city’s housing stock – via the redevelopment of the old Admiralty site (now Mulberry Park) – and transform much of the existing surrounding area.

It will both add to the city’s housing stock – via the redevelopment of the old Admiralty site (now Mulberry Park) – and transform much of the existing surrounding area.

The proposals will be debated – and approved? – at a meeting of the B&NES Development Management Committee in the Guildhall next Wednesday, the 26th of July.Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 08.55.21

Bath Newseum has always welcomed contributions from other people and – with that in mind – is publishing an article by Nola Edwards – who is the chair of the Foxhill Resident’s Association.

What follows is a personal view she expresses on behalf of her Association. In fairness, it is followed by a statement from Curo and a copy of a briefing that was prepared, by them, for councillors in B&NES.

In an email Nola says:

“You may like to know that the plans for Foxhill are likely to go before the DMC on Wednesday 26th July at 2.00pm

We have launched a poster campaign in Foxhill, I had a scout round today and there were over 120 Save Foxhill posters on display in people’s windows.”

I hope you will read both accounts – for and against the proposals – and make your own minds up on the subject.

Bath Newseum is always interested in both comment – and articles – from its followers.

Nola Edwards writes:

“Regeneration, it sounds such a nice word, it speaks of rebirth, renewal of reincarnation into a newer better version of the original form.  Regeneration is a misnomer when applied what is happening to council estates up and down the country. Too often the reality of regeneration is of requisition, razing to the ground and replacement.  Housing estates and their communities are being destroyed and supplanted with more expensive properties for sale with the majority of social homes for rent lost.

The Department for Communities and Local Government presides over the Estate Regeneration National Strategy and Curo includes the following quote in their submission to BANES planning department.

The Government is committed to the regeneration of its post war housing estates. In an article published by DCLG (10th January 2016), it is stated: As we tackle this problem, we should learn the lessons from the failed attempts to regenerate estates in the past. A raft of pointless planning rules, local politics and tenants concerns about whether regeneration would be done fairly all prevented progress*

Curo have not failed in heeding this observation. Tenants and homeowners concerns about fairness have been totally disregarded.

The plans for the regeneration of Foxhill have followed a pattern perfected by developers specialising in estate replacement.  Common themes are: the landlord cuts back on routine maintenance, a practice known as managed decline.  Reports are commissioned portraying the area for redevelopment in the worst possible light and then heavily relied upon to justify demolition.  A consultation takes place but questions are posed in ways that give the developers the responses they seek.  The developer attempts to engineer local engagement in a way that stifles opposition from local people.

 

two Cornish houses

Two Cornish houses

 

This has been the experience of the residents of Foxhill.  When Curo purchased the MOD site adjoining our estate locals paid little attention to how Curo might develop it.  So when many of us attended an exhibition in April 2014 to see what the extension to our estate would look like we were appalled with what we saw. This was the first time that the majority of us found out about the proposed regeneration. 

 

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Flat in Selworthy Road

 

We were presented with a fait accompli 542 of our homes simply did not exist in the illustrations.  Many of us were shocked and immediately sought answers from Curo and BANES. Individuals struggled to make sense of what was happening.  Homeowners and tenants alike were bewildered and didn’t know where to turn.  Foxhill residents consider themselves to have been tricked; a questionnaire which we believed to be about the MOD site had been used to justify the destruction of our estate.

Fortunately for Foxhill, one individual helped us find our collective voice.  During the 2015 general election, Mike Arkell was campaigning on the estate, he was so upset by what he was hearing on the doorstep that he set about making a difference.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mike and his wife Siobhan Foxhill Resident’s Association was founded.

FRA has been engaged with both Curo and BANES since 2015, we have campaigned tirelessly to change Curo’s proposals. We want to see investment to revitalise our existing estate through a programme of planned maintenance, renovation and where there is agreement with those directly affected some replacement of housing stock.  None of our objections have resulted in a softening of Curo’s   approach.

 

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Retirement bungalows at Foxhill.

 

FRA conducted a survey which established that the retirement bungalows in Foxhill are in sound condition, are popular and house thriving communities.  FRA have campaigned for the bungalows to be removed from the regeneration zone and left alone. Our calls remain unheeded the bungalows are earmarked for demolition and replacement by flats occupying a greatly reduced footprint.

 

One of the green areas where children play

One of the green areas.

 

FRA insists on recognising that the existing Foxhill Estate and the former MOD site are two separate developments.  Curo claim them as a single entity in order to reduce the number of social homes for rent that they are obliged to build.  Curo proposes to demolish 542 homes in Foxhill and replace them with 707 units only 151 of which will be for social rent.  Bath is an area where median wages are too low to meet the costs of private rent and the loss of truly affordable homes is unforgivable.

 

Cornish houses

Cornish houses on the estate.

 

There is a strong community in Foxhill, many tenants have lived in their homes for decades and the properties that have been bought under the right to buy scheme are mostly occupied by the people who originally rented them. There are 95 homeowners in the regeneration zone and they all live in fear of compulsory purchase orders.

 

Houses Foxhill Road

Houses on the Foxhill Road.

 

Curo make much of offering market value plus 10% to acquire their homes, in reality, this would leave homeowners at least £100,000 short of the funds to buy a new property in Foxhill.  The alternative on offer is shared ownership in a new build. I like all the other homeowners I know wouldn’t swap my home at any price; we simply dislike the high-density development that we can see being built on our doorstep.

 

Foxhill house

Even the flats have green spaces.

 

FRA objects strongly to the density of the proposed plans, our green estate where every house and the majority of flats enjoy the benefits of gardens is threatened with replacement by  hard landscaping and in some areas even the pavements will be removed in order to cram in the maximum number of units.

 

Dunster house flats 2

Dunster House flats

 

This would result in an uglier environment with poorer air quality and serious concerns about the safety of children playing near their homes or walking to school.

The regeneration plans for Foxhill have been submitted to BANES for consideration, planning reference 16/05219/EOUT

To date 249 objections have been submitted to the plans, over 100 are from residents of Foxhill, an area where people are very unused to engaging with planning issues. The wider community has been extremely generous in their support, the diversity of those who have rallied to our cause has been truly heartening,  people from widely differing social and political circles have all given advice, written objections and campaigned with us and for us in an effort to prevent an outrageous injustice.

 

playground in demolition area

Playground in demolition area.

 

People of all political persuasions disagree with that statement from the DCLG. Planning rules aren’t pointless, it doesn’t need me to emphasise the importance of good planning in the light of the horrific and avoidable disaster of Grenfell.  Local politics do matter and most of all people do deserve to be listened to and treated with fairness and respect.  Bath is a great place to live and the people of Foxhill want to stay here to enjoy our local community and continue to be a part of the mix that makes Bath the vibrant place that it is.”

Nola Edwards

Chair Foxhill Resident’s Association

*Curo, Planning Statement, Page 8

In a statement – issued to Bath Newseum – a spokesperson for Curo said:

“Curo developed this briefing for all B&NES councillors in response to specific enquiries from councillors requesting a concise summary of the key points of the outline planning application which is currently being considered.  It summarises information that we have shared publicly at exhibitions, workshops, group and one-to-one meetings with residents, stakeholders and council members. 

Curo is committed to putting residents at the heart of any regeneration in Foxhill.  That’s why we have put in place a comprehensive package of practical and financial support to make sure that no resident is out of pocket or disadvantaged as a result of the regeneration.  We understand how important it is for many people to be able to stay in the local area, so we are making sure that there are enough brand new homes for all those residents who want to stay. 

We’ve agreed with B&NES Council that new social rent homes at Mulberry Park and Foxhill will be prioritised for Foxhill tenants and we have put in place a rent guarantee for long-term tenants.  For owners, we are offering to buy their existing home at 10% above the market value or help them to move into a brand new home at Mulberry Park at no additional cost to them. 

We will continue to work with residents individually and through groups such as the Residents Regeneration Panel and the Foxhill Residents Association to understand and address any concerns they may have.

We want to deliver the shared ambitions of the Foxhill Regeneration and Development Charter that was adopted by B&NES Council in 2016. These ambitions for high quality homes, improved connections, open spaces and community facilities have guided the development of the outline planning application.  They will ensure that existing and new residents benefit from being part of a vibrant neighbourhood with great facilities for all.

If any resident would like to discuss their situation and how the regeneration may affect them, they can contact Curo or tpas, the independent resident advice service:

Tpas independent advice service

T: 0800 731 1619

E: foxhill@tpas.org.uk

Here is the copy of the statement that was issued to Bath and North East Somerset councillors:

Foxhill Regeneration Why regenerate Foxhill?

  •   One of the 11% most deprived areas in England
  •   Significant social and economic deprivation in comparison to CombeDown ward, Bath and nationally (source: ONS)
  •   Higher turnover of tenants in Foxhill compared to rest of Curo stock
  •   The area’s physical isolation, poor connections and negative reputationcontribute to poor social and economic indicators.Foxhill has worsened from among 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in England in 2004 to 11% most deprived in 2015. Failure to address these issues will see continued decline for Foxhill compared to wider area.Regeneration proposals
  •   700 new homes (30% affordable in line with planning policy)
  •   Four times more green space
  •   Improved connections to Mulberry Park/Combe Down
  •   Access to new community facilities, education and employmentopportunities at Mulberry Park.Affordable homes
  •   Currently: 414 social rent homes in the proposed regeneration area
  •   No net loss of affordable homes – across Foxhill and Mulberry Park wewould deliver 415 brand new affordable homes – 315 social rent and 105 shared ownership. Consultation so far suggests this would be sufficient for the tenants who wish to stay in the area.
  •   New homes will be built to modern standards, adaptable to meet the community’s needs over time. The homes will be energy efficient, reducing residents’ energy bills and addressing fuel poverty.Support for residentsCuro is committed to supporting local residents and community cohesion, enabling residents to stay in the local area if they choose.For tenants who need to move:
    •   Priority on new social rent homes at Mulberry Park and Foxhill
    •   Rent guarantee for long-term tenants
    •   £5,800 Home Loss paymentFor home owners who need to move:
    •   Offer to buy existing home at 10% above market value
    •   Equity share in a higher value new home at no additional cost. Unlike shared ownership, the owner pays no rent on the sharethey do not own

 

For both:

  •   Disturbance payments to cover the costs of moving
  •   Dedicated Curo staff to support residents
  •   Independent Advisor service available for residentsThe benefits
  •   Local people will share the social and economic benefits of regeneration such as improved access to education, training and employment, new community facilities and shared spaces.
  •   High quality, sustainable homes to meet local housing needs
  •   A varied, integrated community with homes across a range oftenures and property types
  •   Foxhill integrated with the wider community through improvedtransport and infrastructure links
  •   Sustainable long term future for FoxhillThe processCuro has undertaken extensive consultation with residents through workshops, public exhibitions, group and one-to-one meetings.The outline planning application, submitted in October 2016, identifies the maximum number and types of new homes, and key design features e.g. building heights. If the application is approved, Curo will work with residents to develop reserved matters applications on a phase-by-phase basis. This could include proposals to demolish and rebuild some homes and also to retain some homes.

    In March 2015, the Mulberry Park and Foxhill area was designated as a Housing Zone by central Government. The designation brings additional support from the HCA and confirms its status as a nationally significant housing project.

    The HCA’s ATLAS team has facilitated a series of workshops between Curo and B&NES Council members and officers to develop a ‘charter’ for Mulberry Park and Foxhill. This charter was adopted by B&NES Council in October 2016.

    We have also secured over £1M funding from the HCA and DCLG to support delivery of the project, including funding an independent resident advisor service.

New images of proposed cable car for Bath.

New images of proposed cable car for Bath.

New images of what a proposed cable car service – linking the south of Bath to the city centre – might look like have been released as the South Bath Transport Options consultation – which includes this proposal – reopens today, Friday 9th June.

Suspended during the general election campaign, the consultation will accept public submissions until Friday 16th June.

Interior Car

Artist’s impression: view from inside a cable car. Indicative image only.

Curo has commissioned an artist’s impression of what a cable car and a station at Mulberry Park could possibly look like if the scheme went ahead.  The designs are inspired by Bath’s heritage and the historical importance of the wool industry in the city.

Victor da Cunha, Curo’s Chief Executive, says “At the moment we’re conducting an ‘in principle’ consultation about a cable car in the south of Bath.  There have been some misleading images circulating on social media; our indicative designs will help people visualise what a cable car could potentially look like.

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Artist’s impression of possible cable car station at Mulberry Park. Indicative image only.

Any design concepts will evolve over the course of the project, but these images give a preview of the sort of detail that will be available for the next stage of the consultation if we receive sufficient support from the city.

At that stage we would provide in-depth information about the business case, the proposed route, the design of the system and the affordability of the fare structure.

“We believe strongly that building successful communities is about much more than new homes.  Successful places need access to good shops, schools, jobs and of course affordable, reliable public transport.  It’s important that we hear the views of as many Bath residents, workers and visitors as possible at this initial stage of the project.”

A consultation event will be held at the Locksbrook Inn, Newbridge on Wednesday 14th June, 6.00pm – 8.00pm where visitors can view the proposals, ask questions and submit their feedback.

More information and an online feedback form can be viewed at www.southbathtransportoptions.co.uk

 

Community Awards launch.

Community Awards launch.

The Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Councillor Alan Hale, has launched his Community Awards. 

Last year, there were 106 nominations for the awards, which recognise volunteers, community leaders, community organisations, carers and local businesses and the positive impact they make on others and the wider community.

Chairman's Community Awards

Picture caption: (L-R) Mike Plows, Volunteer Centre Bath and beyond; Vanessa Collier, Curo; Sara Banks, Bath & North East Somerset Council; Cllr Alan Hale, Council Chairman; Anna Boneham, University of Bath Students Union; Jenny Dean, Student Community Partnership; Clive Bassett, Sirona Care and Health.

The Awards are organised annually in partnership with the Volunteer Centre Bath and beyond; social housing provider Curo; the Student Community Partnership, involving the University of Bath and Bath Spa University students unions; and Sirona care & health.

Cllr Hale said: “The Community Awards have become a prestigious annual celebration, recognising individuals and organisations that are dedicated and committed to helping others.  Volunteers are selfless people – they care a great deal and do so much for our local community.  The Awards are an opportunity for us to say thank you to all our volunteers across Bath and North East Somerset.”

Mike Plows, Manager of the Volunteer Centre Bath and beyond, said: “Volunteering is more than just time. It is a rewarding experience that enriches the lives of so many people.  Being a part of the Awards is a great honour and I am excited to find out more about the amazing people in our community.”

Dusty Walker, Vice-Chair for Sirona care & health, said: “Sirona exists to benefit the community we serve by providing high-quality specialist health and adult social care but we know that we cannot do it alone. Our work depends on working in partnership with volunteers, carers, community leaders, community organisations and local businesses. These awards give us an opportunity to say thank you to those selfless and dedicated people who help us to make a difference every day of the year and ensure they are recognised by the communities of Bath and North East Somerset.”

Vanessa Collier, Community Engagement Manager at Curo, said “The Community Awards have become recognised as a fantastic way for groups and organisations to nominate local people who are volunteering in our communities and doing extraordinary things by regularly helping and supporting others. Each nomination is truly inspiring and makes me proud to work for Curo alongside some of these amazing groups and individuals.”

Rob Armstrong-Haworth, Chair of the Student Community Partnership, said: “The Chairman’s Awards give each of us something to be proud of, and hopefully inspire others to contribute to their local community. The recipients are an inspiration to the whole of Bath and North East Somerset. The Partnership is proud to be associated with this excellent initiative and we look forward to the announcement of the 2016/17 winners.”

 

The award categories are:

Category 1 – Volunteering Awards

Volunteer of the Year / Young Volunteer of the Year

Volunteer Leader of the Year / Young Volunteer Leader of the Year

Volunteer Team or Organisation of the Year/ Young Volunteer Team or Organisation of the Year

Good Neighbour of the Year / Neighbourhood Team of the Year

Carer of the Year / Young Carer of the Year

The Peter Duppa-Miller Lifetime Achievement

 

Category 2 – Business in the Community Award

This award will recognise a socially responsible business which actively supports its local community in positive activities. 

The Chairman may also identify one or more individuals or groups from the nominations received to present a ‘Special Award’.

Local MP welcomes Government pledge on new homes.

Local MP welcomes Government pledge on new homes.

Bath MP Ben Howlett has welcomed the announcement by the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis that the Government plans to see one million new homes built over the next five years but says he’ll be campaigning to ensure construction takes advantage of the city’s brownfield sites and does not encroach on the greenbelt.

Bath MP Ben Howlett at the brownfield Foxhill development site.

Bath MP Ben Howlett at the brownfield Foxhill development site.

The commitment comes shortly after Brandon Lewis launched an expert panel who will help to streamline the local plan making process for Local Authorities.

This will provide greater clarity to communities regarding plans for new homes and infrastructure in their area, while also speeding up the planning process so developers can get to building on sites quicker.

Following the announcement, Ben Howlett commented, ‘It is great to see that this new Conservative Government is committed to build new homes for families across Bath and the UK.

A key part of my 6 point plan was to see more affordable homes in Bath and using brownfield sites is vital for this to happen. Allowing everyone the opportunity to own their own home is a core message of this Government, and one I wholeheartedly support.

‘I will also be continuing my campaign for more investment into regeneration of brownfield sites to ensure development does not encroach on Bath’s beautiful greenbelt, something that sets our city apart from all others across the UK.

‘I am currently in the process of getting onto the property ladder myself, so I understand the difficulties that people face with finding genuinely affordable homes. I am therefore delighted that the Government has made this pledge and I am looking forward to seeing these one million new homes by 2020.’